UPDATED: Yippee-ki-yay, Apple: Will Bruce Willis sue over iTunes inheritance?

3 Sep 2012

Actor Bruce Willis, during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival on 21 May, 2006. Image via cinemafestival on Shutterstock

When Bruce Willis dies (if John McClane ever can die, that is), he would like to leave his well-stocked iTunes collection to his three daughters, Rumer, Scout and Tallulah, only it seems that the Apple digital media store’s policy doesn’t allow this.

According to such highly regarded news sources as The Sun and The Daily Mail, the star of the Die Hard franchise has not taken kindly to the realisation that his iTunes library is not his own. It appears that when users pay for digital media downloads such as songs from iTunes or e-books from Amazon, they are not paying for ownership but rather to license that material for their own personal use.

This means that users do not have the right to transfer ownership or bequeath this content to another person. Willis, who seems particularly keen to ensure his massive iTunes collection doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, is said to be considering legal options so his daughters can inherit daddy’s favourite music. This could involve setting up a family trust for the downloads, or it could even mean Willis will support legal action already being pursued in five US states to give people more rights to their digital media.

However, Eric Slivka of MacRumors has done his research and claims to find no restrictions on transferability of the iTunes Store music content in its terms and conditions. “While Apple is clear that apps sold through both the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store are distributed under a non-transferable license, the current version of the document makes no reference to any such licensing and transferability restrictions for other types of content, such as music,” Slivka writes.

“Ultimately, ownership and copyright on music sold through the iTunes Store are held by record labels who may attempt to dictate transferability, but Apple’s own terms do not appear to address such issues on a blanket basis in their current state,” he added.

Whether the story is wholly true or not, it does raise some serious questions about digital media ownership and, as we begin to purchase more and more content this way, these are questions that need to be answered.

I for one don’t mind leaving it to this guy to demand those answers.

Bruce Willis gif

Bruce Willis gifUPDATE: Spotted via the Guardian Technology Blog, it turns out that this story was in fact too good to be true as confirmed by Willis’ wife herself on Twitter. Still, with a headline like ‘It’s iHard as Willis fights Apple’ we’ll have to forgive the Sunday Times for making us all dream.

Main image of Bruce Willis via cinemafestival on Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic